MEXICO CITY — Take it all in. Because it may never happen again.
That was the message from US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann to his players before they took field against Mexico here on Wednesday. After the Americans pulled off an historic 1-0 victory — the first-ever win in Mexico in 25 tries for the US — he will continue to relay the same message. But it will have the added aspect of a lesson learned.
“I think [this win] is important for us to understand that we can compete with big teams at their stadiums,” Klinsmann said after the match. “It’s like playing at Wembley against England. It’s like playing at the Stade de France. Or playing in Berlin. Those are very special occasions. I want the players to take it all in because you never know if you’ll get another occasion like that. That’s what we told the players: ‘You have nothing to lose here. Give it all you have.’”
No one can deny the US players did do exactly that. An unfamiliar backline that included three players with single-digit cap totals, plus midfielder Maurice Edu playing out of position at center back, held the powerful Mexican attack at bay.
Holding midfielders Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman didn’t stop running and held their positions from start to finish. And Brek Shea came on to make a difference late, fearlessly driving into the box and setting up Michael Orozco Fiscal’s winning goal in the 80th minute.
“Can we play better? Yes,” Klinsmann said. “Can we be technically cleaner? Yes. But these kind of moments when you build a program and are in a transition — for the long term in Brazil, in the short term getting qualified — then moments like this and moments like in February winning in Italy are very important.”
The man of the match on this evening was clearly goalkeeper Tim Howard, and Klinsmann didn’t hold back in his praise for the veteran No. 1.
“Tim Howard made some unbelievable saves,” Klinsmann said. “I’ve said many times that he belongs to the top three goalkeepers in the world and he showed that tonight. He kept us in that game and also our belief in winning here kept us in the game before we even scored a goal.”
The US, for the most part, were clearly outplayed by Mexico on the night. El Tri out-possessed the Americans 66.2 percent to 33.8 percent, outshot them 19-7, and for what it’s worth held, a 10-0 advantage in corner kicks. After the match, media members from both the US and Mexico didn’t hold back in questioning the US side’s performance, in spite of the result.
“We know that Mexico created far more chances,” Klinsmann responded. “They had far more possession. But I think that even if you ask the Mexican players, they felt there was an American team there that was very, very tough to beat. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, which we had, to win in a game like that.
"But when you’re on the field, you sense certain things, and I think the Mexicans even had that feeling that, ‘Those Americans are tough to beat today.’”